Article | March 10, 2020
I've always been a firm believer that frequent and substantive communications are the only way government can adequately communicate their requirements to industry. But, I'm frequently surprised by interactions with government folks who are hesitant or risk adverse about communication with industry. The fact is that government workers at all levels are encouraged to communicate with industry throughout the acquisition process, although there are some constraints. The degree of government concern and avoidance of those communications has been the subject of several DoD policy memos and changes to the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) to encourage more frequent and substantive discussions.
Article | March 10, 2020
Unless America and China assume joint leadership for global economic recovery, reconstruction of the post-coronavirus world could take years, with unimaginable consequences for the world’s 7.8 billion inhabitants, including unprecedented levels of global unemployment, famine, and even war.
In the pre-coronavirus world, suggestions for a partnership between the world’s two superpowers would have been met with gales of laughter. But now, despite the two leaders’ daggers drawn posture, hundreds of doctors and scientists in the U.S. and China are already working together on clinical trials of potential coronavirus drugs; and one of China’s biggest property developers has funded a five-year $115 million project between Harvard University and the Guangzhou Institute for Respiratory Health.
But the window of opportunity for acting together is short. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to decimate the world’s economies. Unemployment in the U.S. now tops 22 million, a level not seen since the great-depression of the nineteen-thirties; while China’s economy stopped growing for the first time in four decades as half a million small and mid-size businesses, the backbone of China’s economy closed; and Italy, the second largest manufacturing economy in the EU watches helplessly as the pandemic axe dismembers its economy. Were India and Africa were unable to control the coronavirus the results could be catastrophic.
So, are there issues of such import and mutual benefit that they would convince President’s Trump and Xi Jinping to work together? I believe there are. My two cents worth below.
The two superpowers could leverage China’s vast, trillion-dollar global infrastructure project—the Belt and Road Initiative or BRI, that aims to build infrastructure in over 120 countries of Asia, Europe, and Africa. The BRI is designed to act as a conveyer belt to transmit Chinese investment and technology into these countries to improve their economies, and to link them to China. But now Covid-19 has crimped China’s ability to sustain BRI’s trillion-dollar underwriting tab and President Xi Jinping’s grandiose vision is at risk.
On the other hand, the United States, which has been searching for a counter to BRI, has settled on an initiative called the Blue Dot Network or BDN. The idea behind the BDN is the U.S. would rigorously vet infrastructure project applications in developing countries to ensure high levels of transparency, sustainability, and economic viability before seeding them with startup funds from the U.S. Government. The BDN hallmark would then inspire confidence in the projects to attract private U.S. funding.
But the relatively paltry BDN budget of $60 billion (versus China’s 1000 billion or trillion-dollar BRI budget) and developing countries’ skepticism of Western (read U.S.) dominated standards for infrastructure construction have hobbled the BDN.
If the U.S. and China could find a way to combine BRI and the BDN it would ensure a stream of dollars from private U.S. companies into BRI and ensure its projects remain on track to create jobs and raise living standards around the world. The compromises required by America and China to weld BRI and BDN together would ensure the U.S. gets a seat at the table to influence the adoption of standards for starting and executing BRI projects.
Here’s another idea: The U.S. military is especially qualified to help fight natural disasters. In 2004, for instance, 3,000 U.S. military personnel were deployed to West Africa to help combat a deadly Ebola epidemic. Their work included constructing 17 hospitals, field training, and deploying assistance by air to remote villages. Today the U.S. military is being used to rapidly set up hospitals in U.S. cities to handle the burgeoning coronavirus caseload. The People’s Liberation Army meanwhile seems determined to play a more active global role in peace-keeping projects around the world.
Coronavirus-aid projects delivered to less-off countries through joint U.S.-China military teams would double what the U.S. and China could do on their own. And help establish the military to military connections that the U.S. has tried to foster with China for some time. A working relationship between the two nations’ militaries might even lead to a more stable geopolitical balance of power.
The Chinese word for crisis contains two characters. One signals danger, the other opportunity. Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping should boldly find a way to join forces to convert the deadly Covid-19 crisis into an opportunity that would supercharge global economic recovery and might well change the course of the 21st Century. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity that ought not to be squandered.
Article | March 10, 2020
The valuable data that IoT-based fleet management solutions generate can be invaluable in helping government agencies improve their fleet operations and stretch their limited resources. Here are nine ways that agencies can leverage these solutions beyond the basic use of telematics.
Article | March 10, 2020
Bridges, a critical part of America’s infrastructure, need immediate attention. The U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2019 National Bridge Inventory database shows that 81,000 bridges should be replaced and more than 46,000 are structurally deficient. In spite of the data, millions of motorists cross these structurally deficient bridges every day.
The American Road & Transportation Builders Association estimates that the cost to repair the country’s bridges is approximately $164 billion. If that statistic appears startling, consider this - at the current pace of repair, construction could easily take more than a half-century.
Rhode Island currently has the highest percentage of structurally deficient bridges in the nation. Other bridges in disrepair include New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge, Washington, D.C.’s Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, and the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge that crosses San Francisco Bay.
Time and the environment will continue to play a huge role in the deterioration of America’s bridges. Repair and reconstruction needs will only become greater. Hundreds of immediate projects are available for construction and engineering firms that perform bridge work.
The Illinois Department of Transportation approved a $21.3 billion highway program this month to improve 8 million square feet of bridges and more than 3,300 miles of roads over the next six years. Of this amount, $3.15 billion has been allocated for the current fiscal year. An Interstate 80 project, with a cost projection of $1.1 billion to replace two bridges, will have funding disbursements that span from 2021 to 2026. In 2021, $74.5 million is allocated for replacements, superstructures, widening, reconstruction, new construction engineering, and utility adjustments. Many additional projects are outlined in the state’s transportation plan.
Beaufort County will receive $120 million from the state to fund what is referred to as the U.S. 278 corridor project. This project will overhaul the only connection between Hilton Head Island and the mainland. Cost projections exceed $272 million. Components of the project include widening the entire corridor to six lanes, adding right-turn only exits off U.S. 278, and building an underpass on Pinckney Island. Another part of the project involves the construction of a multi-use pathway over the bridge.
Prince George’s County has released its 2021-2026 Proposed Capital Improvement Program and Budget for the Department of Public Works and Transportation. One project is the replacement of a 30-foot concrete bridge in Clinton over Piscataway Creek at a cost of $5.7 million. Design of the bridge is scheduled for 2021, and construction will begin in 2022. The Livingston Road Bridge, another structure that crosses the Piscataway Creek, will be replaced at a cost of $8.4 million. A total of $29.6 million will be dispersed from 2021-2026 to fund the replacements or rehabilitation of county bridges in the state.
This state currently has 314 bridges in poor condition, the seventh-highest percentage in the country. Bridges in Maine are inspected every two years and receive posted warnings or become closed when there is danger to the public. Many of the state’s bridges are more than 90 years old. Approximately $38.1 million in federal funding has been secured, and seven bridges have been selected for repair as part of the National Highway Freight System program. The Maine Department of Transportation will contribute another $14 million and construction is expected to begin 2022. The bridges include Interstate 95 over Webb Road in Waterville, I-95 over Broadway in Bangor, Main Street Bridge in Solon, Red Bridge in Rumford, and the double bridge on Stillwater Avenue in Old Town.
The Fort Smith Board of Directors, Arkansas & Missouri Railroad, and the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District agreed July 21 to facilitate a $15 million project to repair a railroad line. The district will manage the procurement of engineering services, as well as procurement and supervision of the construction contract for the renovation of the Arkansas River railroad lift bridge and wooden trestles from Fort Smith to Missouri. The district also will manage other procurement responsibilities for two railroad bridges in Crawford County.
Funding has been approved through an agreement with the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development (LDOTD) for the replacement of the Cheniere spillway and bridge. In 2019, the LDOTD announced it would contribute $4 million to replace the bridge and substitute a fix-crested weir for the parish-owned spillway. A weir is a low dam built across a river to raise the level of water upstream or regulate its flow. The bridge and spillway were damaged by floods and the LDOTD agreed to fund the repair. Procurements for the project will begin soon as construction is also slated for 2020.
In the city of Baton Rouge, planning will begin soon on a new Mississippi River bridge after LDOTD finalized an agreement July 7 with an engineering firm on a $5 million planning and advisory contract. The contractor will be responsible for developing a purpose and need statement, producing a navigational analysis, and analyzing various traffic models for this more than $1 billion project. The state has a backlog of road and bridge projects that totals more than $14 billion. The Capital Area Road and Bridge District will consider alternative funding methods for the new bridge, including tolls, public-private partnerships, and state funds. The project is moving rather rapidly.
There will be no shortage of opportunities for companies interested in bridge construction and repairs throughout the country.
Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc., a business development company specializing in government contracting and procurement consulting throughout the U.S. Her recently released book, Inside the Infrastructure Revolution: A Roadmap for Building America, is a handbook for contractors, investors and the public at large seeking to explore how public-private partnerships or joint ventures can help finance their infrastructure projects.